Man accused of killing wife in Gaslamp found competent

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Joseph Gotell is accused of gunning down his estranged wife in broad daylight in the Gaslamp District on May 14, 2011.

SAN DIEGO — An 84-year-old man accused of gunning down his estranged wife in broad daylight in the Gaslamp District is mentally competent to stand trial on murder charges, a judge ruled today.

Criminal proceedings were reinstated for Joseph Gotell, who’s accused of killing 57-year-old Deborah Gotell on May 14, 2011.

After a two-day mental competency trial, Judge Peter Deddeh ruled that the defendant understood the charges against him and could assist his attorney at trial.

Dr. Richard Kennerly, a a neuropsychologist, testified Monday that Gotell suffers from dementia and paranoid delusions and is not mentally competent to stand trial.

But forensic psychologist Dr. Valerie Rice testified that Gotell had an understanding of his case and could assist his attorney at trial.

Rice testified that Gotell was emotional when talking about the victim — his wife of five years — but did not suffer from a severe mental disorder.

During an interview, Gotell was mostly “grounded in reality,” Rice testified.

Authorities allege that Gotell confronted his wife about 2:15 p.m. on May 14, 2011, near the corner of Fifth Avenue and Broadway, while she was running errands. He allegedly pulled out a .32-caliber handgun and shot her twice in the head and once in the right arm. She was declared brain-dead the next morning.

After the shooting, Gotell threw his gun about 10 feet away and was quickly detained by two security guards, who turned him over to a passing San Diego police officer, according to authorities, who have yet to offer a motive for the slaying.

The victim’s three adult daughters have said their mother had broken away several times from the defendant but that he kept showing up in places where he knew she would be.

Criminal proceedings were suspended last year when defense attorney Kathleen Lee requested a mental competency evaluation.

Doctors deemed the defendant competent last November, but a second examination determined that Gotell was incompetent to stand trial. A third evaluation was ordered and the matter was set for a mental competency trial.

Gotell faces 50 years to life in prison if convicted. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Jan. 24.

By Kelly Wheeler, City News Service